Posts

Earlier this year, Edison Research and Triton Digital released their Infinite Dial Report describing the trends in music, streaming, radio and digital music. They report that:

  • Mobile devices are quickly rewiring behavior, especially with young users and image sharing (Instagram and Snapchat)
  • Internet Audio is growing at a fast rate with Pandora as the #1 player in online radio by far
  • Podcasts are increasingly growing their listener bases

The smartphone either is or will shortly become the dominate way that people interact “online”. If you are trying to break new music, you need to make sure that your presentation is mobile friendly.

Smartphone Growth

This may be old news to many of you, but if you are trying to break music or gather a fan base and you are not on YouTube, you have little or no chance of success these days.  YouTube is absolutely dominating the listening/viewing habits of 12-24 year olds as you can see in this chart from Edison Research and Triton Digital.

Youtube 1

While radio remains the top source for new music discovery, YouTube was the No. 1 source for the very important young listener market aged 12 to 24 years.

Youtube 2

And finally, nearly half the audience in America is listening to online radio (Pandora mostly).

Online Radio

Opposition to online streaming has been intense this summer. Songwriters, performers, and various music companies have spoken out against the meager royalties the streaming giants Spotify and Pandora dish out to musicians. Many prominent and influential artists have taken their music off Spotify. It seems that these streaming companies are in the business of fixing and maintaining their reputation against the onslaught of musicians and have little time left over for developing and improving their core competency – streaming music.

This past week, Pandora won an important court case against ASCAP, which solidly reiterates what was already written in copyright law. Spotify is an “interactive streaming service,” meaning users can skip as many songs as they like and choose what song or artist they want to listen to at any given moment. Because of this function, it almost replaces the need to own music. Musicians therefore have the right to choose to license or not to license. Pandora, on the other hand, is a “non-interactive streaming service,” and functions similarly to terrestrial radio. Like terrestrial radio, there is a compulsory license in place, requiring artists to license their music if they are associated with a PRO like ASCAP. This is why you hear about artists taking their music off Spotify, but not Pandora.

So what does this court case actually mean? Basically it removes the possibility of getting through any loopholes to take music off Pandora. If an artist wants to boycott Pandora, their only option is to remove all their music from performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Publishers and songwriters are not allowed not allowed to make separate, market-driven deals with Pandora if they are also a member of a collecting society. Pandora had made private copyright deals with prominent publishers like Sony, EMI, Universal, and BMG, requiring the streaming company to pay a higher royalty rate to their artists. This court decision will most likely void those deals and prevent any similar deals from happening in the future.

While most artists wouldn’t dream of taking their music off their PRO, the possibilities for direct licensing are becoming easier with new technology. In a few years, big record labels and publishing companies may have these functions in-house.

For more information on this topic, check out these two articles from Digital Music News (article 1, article 2).

With all this conflict in the streaming industry, there is little room for improvement and progression. Streaming companies are fighting rights holders and rights holders are speaking out against unfair royalties. Not to mention, the lawsuits are creating a further rift between modern artists and the copyright law, serving as a confirmation to many that copyright law is not caught up with modern society.  This battle between the law, the streaming services, and the musicians does not equate to a healthy industry. Streaming companies will stagnate if they refuse to grow with artists, and artists will lose out on opportunity if they insist on shutting streaming services down their early in the game. Surely we can move forward and find a solution together?

What are your thoughts on music streaming? Should artists be concerned about taking their music down? Does the exposure make up for the small royalties? Can this ever be a healthy industry?

 

Apple’s iTunes Radio is certainly late to the game, which brings to rise questions on how they will get consumers to switch from the already established online radio services. Apple needs to know what consumers really want from an online radio service and then go about providing more value while keeping the switching costs low.

Here is an interview with Jason Herskowitz, contributor to the music platform Tomahawk, and co-founder of Hatchet Industries. He discusses iTunes Radio as it compares to its established competitors including Pandora and Songza.

Much of the critical reception of iTunes Radio has consisted of balking at its similarities to Pandora. Industry pundits and market analysts are saying that Apple isn’t being
 innovative enough; it developed a “copy cat” feature, not a game-changing product. 

What was your initial reaction to iTunes Radio?

Herskowitz: This was my question, as I’m so close and tied into this market, is: how much do the “normal” people in the world know about or have brand affinity for Pandora? And if those people do, is Apple going to have something that is unique enough to get those users to switch from what they are already doing with Pandora. Those are all the things that raced through my mind when I first heard about iTunes Radio. As I got closer and started to realize that this isn’t a stand-alone app. This is actually built within the music app itself. I started to see more of the value proposition. The fact that of the mainstream users, who many are still in their iPod or iPhone music app and hitting shuffle and listening. The fact that there is radio programming within that same app, built on top of that same catalog. Is that moving the entry point far enough upstream that it’d siphon off some of those Pandora users?

Switching Costs

With that said, do you think Apple’s goal with iTunes Radio is to get Pandora users to switch or lock-in existing users to the music app?

Herskowitz: I think that most average iTunes users have used Pandora at some point or another. So I think Apple has to be thinking a little bit about switching. Because as you know and I know, and everybody else knows, the fact that all of the normal people that we know, that are not in this industry, are all generally aware of Pandora and have used it at least once and some of them very often. So I think Apple does need to think about getting those users to switch. Obviously, those that haven’t switched yet, or don’t know about Pandora yet, then great, they can get in there as well. But iTunes Radio is also going to help drive incremental download sales, which is of course, as Apple tries to extend the life of download sales as long as they can: this affords them the opportunity to do that. And of course, iTunes knows exactly how many iTunes downloads Pandora sells. Those are all numbers that they are very aware of, and they see how much sales Pandora drives, so they can think about: “If we can get upstream of Pandora…” There’s going to be benefits to them in the kind of longer play. Ultimately, I think Apple’s play is much more about the iAds platform than about being a music service for the sake of being a music service.

To read the full interview, visit Sidewinder.fm.

 

There has been a lot of hype this past week about Pandora and their unfair payments to artists. Both sides in this argument are  skewing the facts in their favor, and therefore creating mass misunderstanding, leaving consumers and other musicians with music on Pandora utterly confused.

I cannot help but make the connection to the Pandora’s Box myth. Pandora used innovation and creativity to lead the way to a redefined music industry, one where consumers had access to millions of songs anywhere, but unleashed conflict. This finger-pointing environment is not healthy for innovation and progression in the music industry. We need to try to learn all the facts, look at the situation from both sides, and find a way to move forward together. As we move forward, musicians cannot deny the value in online radio – it enables music to reach millions of consumers and potential fans – and streaming companies would not exist without the music. Along with all the bad things, Pandora’s Box also held the spirit of hope.

Here’s a quick recap of a few of the major finger-pointing events that occurred this past week:

* On Monday 6/24, David Lowery posted a piece where he showed he made $16.89 on over 1 million Pandora plays. Never mind that the song actually grossed over $1300, David wished to make his point by highlighting his songwriting revenue only. The issue gets muddled when you realize he only pointed out his songwriting share, not his publishing share as well, and that his take is only 40% of the writing, which he can’t blame Pandora for. David didn’t hide this skewing of the data, but his headline-generating writing style got respected blogs like Gizmodo and AV Club to write articles making it sound like that’s all the money he made. This forced a round of retraction articles later in the week. I can get behind the reasoning David made in the article (to stop Pandora from suing PROs to lower rates) but by obscuring the issue, he weakened the overall position.

* On Wednesday 6/26, Tim Westergren had to acknowledge the growing blogstorm and post a response about how much they do indeed pay and how they are not trying to reduce rates. Tim also chooses words carefully to make Pandora appear more altruistic than they’ve been. By saying that Pandora has not advocated an 85% rate decrease, it makes it seem that they’ve not positioned for lower royalties. But what (former) Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy did do was advocate in front of Congress for the Internet Radio Fairness Act. In a summary by bill sponsor Senator Ron Wyden, the bill “would treat Internet Radio, for purposes of establishing royalty rates, in the same way that satellite and cable radio are treated.” Currently, satellite radio is paying 7.5% of revenue to royalties. Pandora has claimed they currently pay over 50% of revenue. Cutting 50% of their revenue down to 7.5% is an…85% rate decrease. While this bill may be dead, that doesn’t mean the 85% reduction is the result of an RIAA misinformation campaign.

* On Thursday 6/27, David Israelite, the President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), entered his opinion about the misinformation campaign by Pandora. He cited figures from both the Lowery argument and an event the NMPA held the previous year highlighting the paltry royalties the songwriters are getting. As he puts it: “By any standard, this is unacceptable.” That’s not entirely true because all this suggests is that Pandora is not paying a fair rate instead of a fair market rate, which is a different beast. By not comparing Pandora’s royalties to anything, these rates will naturally appear low. But you need an apples-to-apples comparison to know if anything is truly fair or not.

OK, so what is the truth of this argument? We need to have this so we can move forward with actual intellectual discussions that are as fair as possible to all sides.

To read the full post, visit Hypebot.

Apple announced its long anticipated online radio last month. The free version, iTunes Radio, and the ad-free paid version, iTunes Match, will be available to consumers and music fans later this year. Apple’s iAd will be supporting the free service. As a company known for innovation and market disruption, seeing a model so similar to Pandora’s is a little anticlimactic. Apple’s lack of success and interest in the advertisement market also raises some questions about their model. However, while it seems like Apple is late to the game and that their model is similar to that of the struggling Pandora, a deeper look shows some key differences on which Apple is betting their success.

Granted, many of Apple’s recent iTunes endeavors like Ping have not been wildly successful. Ping was installed on hundreds of millions of devices and was easily available to consumers, but if the product is not good, this does not matter. iTunes radio will most likely take a similar approach. Through iTunes, the iPod, and the iPad, Apple has an enormous customer base to which it can push this new service. However, in order to get people to switch from their current streaming service, there must be minimal switching costs – it must be easy to understand, intuitive, and clean.

Similar to Ping, iAd has not currently gained the traction it needs to support an online radio. In the past, iAd has had a difficult time attracting and holding on to top brands for advertisements. The service previously offered little control over where the ad was placed, costed more than rival services, and had a reach limited to Apple’s mobile products. It will be interesting to see how Apple adapts this service to support the online radio.

The radio service itself may be enough to attract the high-paying advertisers they need. The iTunes Store has gathered data on millions of consumers for years. Data on what genre of music they purchase, what bands they like best, how much money they spend on music and other recreational goods, what movies they watch, what books they download, and what apps they have downloaded and use. With this information, Apple can offer advertisers extreme consumer targeting based not only on demographics, but psychographics as well.

Other than data, Apple has good relations with more record labels. Because of the importance of the iTunes Store in today’s music economy, Apple has secured more robust licensing agreements with the majors, allowing Apple to potentially reach more people in more countries with more music than Pandora or Spotify.

As implied by the services names, iTunes Radio and iMatch will be heavily integrated with the iTunes store. Listeners will be able to purchase music heard on the radio and the music discovery mechanism will most likely be based on a mixture of listening information and data from the listener’s iTunes library preferences. Again, the huge amount of data Apple has been able to collect over the years may help them produce a more intuitive recommendation and discovery method.

To see an in-depth overview of the royalty calculations for Apple’s online radio services, check out this article from Billboard.

Of course, at this point, the potential success of Apple’s online radio is all speculation. It will be interesting to see what Apple can bring to the table in terms of innovation in this difficult market. The price for iTunes Match is currently set at $24.99 per year, as compared to Pandora’s $36.99 yearly fee.

As of May 2013, Pandora has 70.8 million users and Spotify has 24 million. What do you think about Apple’s online radio? Will it disrupt the market, or are they too late coming into the game?

According to this article from Digital Music News, Maria Pallante, the US Register of Copyrights, is looking to move US law towards the full payment of performance rights.  This means that radio broadcasters, who historically have not paid for their use of the sound recording, may be required to do so in the future.  While this statement is certainly not a guarantee of action, the fact that the topic is being openly discussed by US officials represents progress for the issue.

US copyright law protects two separate copyrights – the composition and the sound recording.  Additionally, copyright law grants exclusive rights in the public performance of the composition, and of the sound recording via digital transmission.  Missing from this equation is the payment of the public performance royalties to the sound recording owner for non-digital performances.  This means that if you hear your favorite song on Pandora, both the composition and sound recording owner will be compensated, but if you hear that same song on terrestrial radio, only the composition owner receives payment for the performance.

Similar to the US, most other developed countries do not specifically grant public performance rights to sound recording owners, but the rights are assumed via neighboring rights.  This means the US is one of the few countries not paying their sound recording owners for public performances.

This illogical exclusion is perhaps one of the most frustrating and baffling aspects in US copyright law – it remains relevant in today’s society simply because it has always been.  In the past, broadcasters avoided payment to the sound recording owner (usually the record company) by arguing that their services provided free promotion.  This precedent has remained to this day despite terrestrial radio’s diminishing significance, especially regarding indie musicians.

The movement towards the full payment of sound recording owners most likely found its roots in Pandora’s recent litigation attempts to lower their public performance fees.  Pandora argued that the disconnect between the fees paid by terrestrial radios and the fees required of Pandora put them at an unfair disadvantage.

While this is most likely not the outcome Pandora litigators wanted or expected, most would agree that it is necessary for the US to drop old, irrelevant precedence and enter the modern age of copyright law.

musicbizrecapHere’s a recap of some of the key trends and topics that marked the music business in 2012.  As we move forward, it’s good to look back, especially amidst the music industry’s chaotic, shifting paradigms.

As the music industry’s traditional structures continue to fall away, new models are building upon unsteady foundations.  Some of the new companies that stepped onto the playing field in previous years fought in 2012 to stay in the game.  Major music companies merged and reorganized while digital startups gained more and more attention.  Digital Music News reported that 1 in every 43 venture capital dollars was spent on music related businesses last year.1  One example, The Echonest, a music data and analysis company, popped up from under the radar and secured over $17 million in funding.  With success stories from Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter pushed funding into uncharted territory, creating viable new streams of capital for musicians.  Here are ten examples of trends and events that marked the music industry in 2012 and that will continue to have an impact on the months and years to come.

Check out the full story at The Berklee Music Business Journal

Ale Delgado wrote this great recap of our CMJ panel on merchandise last week.  Thanks Ale!  Here is most of it.  Visit her site for more:

Considering that I’m always looking for the next big thing, I knew I had to go to CMJ’s “Modern Merch: Beyond the Tour T-Shirt” panel. See, merch is a $2.2 billion business and one of the biggest ways an artist can make money. But while most merch is sold at shows, most people at shows don’t buy merch. Tricky, huh?

The basic premise of the panel was that opportunity comes when you marry a point of passion (e.g., a song stream or live show) with a call to action (e.g., a merch sale)– and yes, they had some tips to help you take advantage of any opportunities that come your way.

Moderator: Dave Kusek, co-founder of MerchLuv and co-author of The Future of Music.

Panelists: Zach Bair, founder of RockHouse Live Media Productions and the original CEO of DiscLive Network, which records, masters, and burns concert CDs to be made available to fans right after the show;  Mary Sparr of screen-printed gig poster pros Print Mafia and culture blog Young Mary’s Record; and Alexandra Starlight, funky and spunky indie starlette whose Kickstarter campaign resulted in 205% funding and a rainbow glitter 7″ EP.

 

1.Think of merch as an extension of your brand

As always, the first thing to do is consider your brand as an artist. Once you develop a consistent aesthetic, you can open the door to more innovative merch because fans will recognize it as one of your pieces. For example, Starlight created a one-of-a-kind rainbow glitter vinyl record for her self-titled EP. A record like that had never been pressed before and each one was hand-glittered, so each fan received a unique copy. If you’ve ever peeked at Starlight’s website (or rainbow-dyed hair), you know that a rainbow glitter album fits perfectly with her brand– and it’s damn memorable.

Furthermore, if you think of merch as your brand being integrated into someone’s lifestyle, it opens up even more creative possibilities. For instance, The Hold Steady created branded foam fingers. Y’know, the ones you wave around like crazy when you’re cheering on your favorite team. What do foam fingers have to do with music? Not much, but they’re fun, different, and priced for the college-aged fan. And judging by the fact that they’re sold out, they’re a big hit with fans.

2. Cater to your spectrum of fans

Take another look at The Hold Steady’s foam finger. It’s $10 reduced to $5. Easy sale for a teenager or college student who might have a lot of spending money but is willing to pay for something cool to show off to their friends. Making sure that you have different tiers of merch for different fans is key to building sales. You should have something at your merch table for the fan who just wants to snatch a free download card and for the fan who wants to buy everything. That also means bundling items together (CD, t-shirt, button combo) for a quick sale.

3. Be show-specific

If possible, create show-specific merch. It can be as simple as individual gig posters for each city in which you tour or something a little more involved. Sparr brought up the tickets that Mumford & Sons created for their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Tour. Each ticket was a commemorative passport that contained a download code for a compilation of songs recorded at each Stopover. Then it got better. Fans could get their passports stamped at the merch tables at each Stopover, personalizing their passports to their experience. Then it got even better. People were wandering around each Stopover with unique stamps, essentially turning the passports into a Pokemon game. (Gotta stamp ‘em all!) Talk about fan engagement.

Next, update your Facebook and Twitter on the day of the show and let your fans know what merch you’re going to be offering, especially if you have something that will only be available at that show. The more people can prepare (or at least consider the possibility of picking up your record), the more likely they’re going to buy something.

 

4. Work your merch like a pop-up shop

Think about every grumpy salesperson you’ve had to deal with. They don’t greet you, they don’t look you in the eye, they don’t care if their store is a mess, they don’t want to help you find anything, or (even worse) they’re way too pushy… Okay, now be exactly the opposite.

Your merch table is your pop-up shop. Have your items propped up nicely so that fans who are moving past your table can see what you have to offer. Greet them as they walk up to your table; don’t badger them, but put on a friendly face like you would if they were customers coming into your brick-and-mortar store. Also make sure that you’re being as meticulous as you would be if you were running a store: keep track of your inventory and double-check any email addresses written down on your mailing list. Remember that the experience doesn’t end when your show does; fans will remember what you were like behind the table.

5. Extend the experience

Well, actually, the experience doesn’t have to stop when your fans walk out of your venue either. There are a lot of ways you can extend your show experience, from the simple to the elaborate. Here are a few ideas from the Panelists:

  • Make sure there’s someone taking pictures of your show, including grabbing a few shots of the crowd. Then post it on Facebook and encourage your fans to tag themselves.
  • Have your fans post pictures of your show to Instagram with a hashtag of your choosing, and then sending them aPostagram thanking them for coming to the show or giving them a discount for your store.
  • Use DiscLive to record, mix, and master a live recording of your show. By the time you’re ready to sell some merch, they’ll have CDs ready to go. DiscLive also allows for preorders, meaning that a) you can bundle tickets and CDs and b) you’ll have an estimate of what you’ll sell at your show.
  • Use MerchLuv to bundle streaming songs with merch items to cater to those new fans who hadn’t heard of you before your show, but want to check you out afterwards. Remember, opportunity lies where passion meets action.

Read more here including a Happy Halloween Bonus Tip!

For artists struggling to make a living in the digital age, a strong merch strategy can be the difference between living life as a starving artist and making a comfortable living.

Yet compared to the recording, publishing and ticketing businesses—which have felt the full effect of technology and the Internet— the merch business today is mostly stuck in the analog 70s. If we are looking to make money in the music industry of the future, why focus our energies on debating the intricacies of Spotify payments or whether licensing terms stifle innovation. Instead let’s examine an area ripe for disruption and revenue expansion.

A Highly Fragmented Environment

Indeed merch seems to be a highly fragmented business ripe for consolidation and transformation. To illustrate, let’s look at some research conducted by a company I work with— Merchluv. We looked at the August 2012 Big Champagne charts and came up with a list of  100 top artists and analyzed their merch availability:

– The 100 artists on the list used 44 different merch vendors (how’s THAT for fragmentation?).

– 75% of artists sold merchandise on their website, Facebook page or through an official supplier.  A surprising 25% of the top selling artists in August did not sell any merch AT ALL.

– 18 artists were “self” merchandisers, meaning they used Topspin, Paypal, Amazon, or a 3rd party services or ran their own commerce site/shopping cart.

– The remaining 57 artists were served by 26 different merch suppliers.

That means to sell merch for the top 100 artists in August you need to make nearly 44 deals with merch suppliers. Clearly a consolidation of merch vendors could help to rationalize the market. Where is the Amazon of music merchandising?

Merch is an Insulated Service

The merch business is largely disconnected from the real heat in the music market today, namely the explosion in digital music services. For example: 45 BILLION songs are streamed or viewed every month, yet there is NO MERCH being sold against this engagement. And that number is just going to BLOW UP to hundreds of billions of streams per month in the next few years.

Imagine if streaming services allowed fans to browse and buy an artist’s merchandise from the same page where they  are streaming their album or buying their tickets? There is a complete disconnect between where most music is discovered today, and the $2.2 billion in annual merch revenue.  The vast majority of merch is sold at the venerable merch table at any given concert. Why not make the effort to expand that experience into the digital realm? An alignment of merch distribution with the direction that the overall music market is headed would serve artists and merch companies extremely well, and potentially unlock a flood of new revenue.

Merch is Analog

Most artists sell 85% or more of their merch directly at live shows at the merch table. As effective as they are, merch tables can stand to be improved on in the digital age.  For example:

– Fans have to know where the merch booth is.

– Why stand in line when you can order from your seat?

– What if the merch guys don’t have your size or color preference at the table?

– When you buy merch at a show you have to hold it and take it home. Do you want it delivered instead?

– What if you want a bundle of something physical and something digital.  Is this easy to buy?

– How about something personalized for you, or something bigger than you can carry home?

There hasn’t been much innovation at the merch table at all, except for perhaps using Square readers to process credit cards. I wonder if the major merch vendors of today are going to be blindsided by technology and the changing habits of music consumers in much the same way that the record labels were hit.  Merch is extremely difficult to digitize.  But the sales of merch are not.

Tons of artists have web stores attached to their web sites and Facebook pages.  Companies like Reverbnation and Bandcamp can help independent artists manage their merch on their web stores and spread the merch offer out via social media to numerous outlets.  There are many businesses such as Bandmerch and Cinderblock, JSR and Bubbleup addressing this niche, providing fulfillment, webstores, warehousing and shipping services.

But the problem with this approach is that fans need to navigate to an artist’s web site and find the merch for sale and be ready to buy.  Today only 15% of merch is sold online.  New companies like Merchluv, which I am an investor in are about to blaze new trails in digital merchandising. The reason to do this? Grow overall revenue.

The large merchandising companies are very aware of the opportunities of snaring a hot band and bringing their merch to market effectively.  The holy grail of this is the long-term sales possible from mega-popular bands over time.  Anyone want to guess how many Dark Side of the Moon T-shirts have been sold?  Companies like Old Glory have been licensing artist merchandise for decades.

Now we can argue whether there will ever be another blockbuster band like Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones or Metallica – but if there is going to be significant revenue in the music market of the future, merchandise is going to be a huge contributor.  Merchandise might possibly become the single largest revenue generator for artists of the future. You have to think big here and broader to see what I am talking about.

When artists today are being pulled in various directions to run their businesses, create, act, teach, write and express themselves and interact with their audience, what could be better for supporting a career than a good merch strategy?  Think about the merchandising empires built by Jimmy Buffett, Jay-Z, Puffy, 50 Cent, the Grateful Dead.  The merch is the tail wagging the dog and it has made these artists a fortune.

For musicians in the digital age, revenue needs to come from something than other the recording itself.  To some extent this has always been true, but never more so than today.

Creative Explosion

My friend Todd Siegel and partner in Merchluv tells me that these days creating innovative merch and finding things that resonate with your audience is easier than ever, and many clever artists are using fan sourcing and crowd sourcing options like Talent House and Creative Allies to design merch with their fans.  Once you have a design, you can use sites like Zazzle to test ideas for new products without investing in inventory up front.
Bands like Insane Clown Possee (ICP) have created a cult-like brand through the use of iconic imagery and building a strong following by involving their fans.  The Misfits have sold more merch than music because of that iconic skull that people buy because the merch itself is cool and fashonable.

And talk about branding, take a look at what Deadmau5 is doing with the goofy mouse head. This guy has merch everywhere and may just overtake Mickey Mouse in brand awareness across teenagers.  Even if you have never heard him perform, you know who he is.

Beats by Dr. Dre is another example of merch that has gone over the top and transcended the music entirely to become a lifestyle product that in some respects is becoming a big part of the music industry.  This in only a matter of a few years.

The brainchild of artist/producer Dr. Dre and Interscope Chairman Jimmy Iovine, Beats is bringing high-quality audio to fans through their headphones, sound systems, and now the recently acquired MOG digital music service. Dre has taken a brand established as a recording artist and is in the process of turning it into the music industry of the future, through a grand merchandising strategy.

Conclusion

In the face of declining recorded music sales, many of us are looking hard at the opportunities for generating money in music today. Most of the investment from VCs, Angel investors or Private Equity in music has been in streaming music, discovery, ticketing, crowd funding and artist services. Businesses like Pandora, Spotify, Beats, Ticketfly, Soundcloud, Songkick and Indiegogo all have received significant investments in recent years.

There are two ways that bands have always made money. One is by performing and the other is by selling merchandise. Both are tried and true methods, difficult to download or duplicate, and solid and reliable opportunities.

Why have hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital been poured into online music services in the face of severely declining recorded revenue, when one of the most profitable parts of the music business—namely merch—been largely ignored by investors? Wouldn’t it make more sense try to increase sales of an already healthy and expanding market segment, ripe for disruption?

This video from James West and Len Henriksen shows that the consumption of music has come along way since the days of vinyl records. But now with all the digital variants of music available to anyone with an internet connection, what has become of the stability of the industry and the ability of artists’ to make money?

To sum it up, while digital consumption has absolutely exploded – the revenue per download, or spin, or play has collapsed. Data is from 2010.

I did a radio show yesterday on NPR on the Future of Music along with Jeff Price from Tunecore and Tim Westergren from Pandora. You can listen to the show online here or download an MP3 of the show.

In a 2002 New York Times article, David Bowie said that “music itself is going to become like running water or electricity….it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what is going to happen.” Now, seven years later, the music industry has continued its rapid metamorphosis. Often referred to as an industry in crisis, coming up Where We Live, we’ll be talking with writers and innovators who say the business of making music has never been better. Ignore the closed up Virgin MegaStore in cities across the country—listening to and making music is still big business. David Kusek, author of The Future of Music: Manifestor for the Digital Music Revolution joins us to talk about the new truths that govern the music world. Also, The founders of Pandora and TuneCore chime in and we’ll be joined in-studio by WNPR’s own Anthony Fantano. From the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network.

Many people have asked me to explain the current status of royalty payments for online music.

A thorough discussion of this past year’s agreement on mechanical royalties was produced by my friends at the Future of Music Coalition.

There is also a good summary on the meeting of the Copyright Royalty Board this past fall here.

The royalties that songwriters receive from CD sales and digital downloads will remain the same, the same for both media and the same as the current rate: 9.1 cents per song. The rate for ringtones will increase to 24 cents a song, above even the 15 cents songwriters and publishers lobbied for.

However there is still great unease with the direction that things are headed on the part of online webcasting and streaming music services as they look into the reality of making payments at these levels. Pandora, NPR and others seeking a new structure want rates to be set as a percentage of total revenue, similar to how royalties are assessed for satellite radio or subscription music services. At the very least, they want a system that will favor webcasters big and small.

Webcasters are required to pay an escalating fee to copyright owners every time they play a song for a listener. This year, for instance, Web radio stations are supposed to pay 14 hundredths of a penny ($.0014) per song streamed, per listener; site operators figure that will cost them about 2.1 cents per user, per hour. That is a figure that most webcasters simply cannot afford to pay, since most sites are advertising supported and do not generate enough revenue to pay the license fees and operate their businesses. Read more from All things Digital here.

We will see what happens in the next month or so as things come to a head.

Want to know what’s up with new music startups? Read on. Great coverage by Paul Bonanos from The Deal. So good to see mainstream financial coverage of our music industry.

Striking a chord

A decade after Napster, a new crop of Internet startups is challenging the music industry’s dominant companies. Their instruments of choice: social networking, discovery, ad-supported streaming, marketing and other tools that change how business is done.

New Music Startups

Source: Tech Confidential

U.K.-based We7 Ltd., which has drawn funding from British musician Peter Gabriel, along with VC firms Eden Ventures and Spark Ventures plc, both of London, offers free songs that contain short advertisements that vanish after a few weeks. We7 recently added songs from a third major label, while SpiralFrog signed up only two of the four majors, meaning that finding free songs can still be something of a wild
goose chase.

Nashville’s NoiseTrade, a bootstrapped startup, provides a way for artists to give away music in exchange for the e-mail addresses of prospective new fans, while angel investor-backed TrueAnthem Corp. of San Francisco connects brand advertisers with musicians, who introduce tunes with short, personalized ads.

Consumers less inclined to possess a virtual copy of a song also have more options. That includes subscribing to libraries of music content and Web sites that allow streaming songs on demand and limited downloading. Publicly traded RealNetworks Inc. of Seattle has emerged as a clear leader among such products with its Rhapsody service, while the existing Napster, which purchased its trademark from the original bankrupt startup, has lost subscribers and remains far from profitable. Both companies offer several tiered plans, ranging from roughly $10 to $15 per month, that provide access to millions of songs from all four major labels, as well as “tethered downloads,” or DRM-restricted files that expire once a customer cancels his subscription.

The market for free music “streamed” on a Web site is more complex, with some startups relying on subscription services to supply songs through their own user interfaces. Most streaming services are married to some other Web utility, whether a social networking site, music discovery service or
paid-download store.

With investment from VC firms Sequoia Capital and Morgenthaler Ventures, both of Menlo Park, Calif., as well as from Universal Music and Warner, social music site Imeem Inc. of San Francisco has built the fastest-growing free streaming service. All four major labels now supply music to Imeem, which lets users play songs on demand.

Imeem’s growth highlights the pressure on “old music” companies, like other old media firms, to change with the times. And the legal battles between upstart music firms and incumbents have been no less intense than the fights in other quadrants of the media industry, such as the ongoing court dispute between Google Inc. and Viacom Inc. over the search giant’s use of protected video on YouTube. Warner sued Imeem in 2007 over alleged copyright infringement, only to later buy a stake in the startup after settling the case.

“Sometimes a lawsuit is foreplay to a licensing deal,” says Norwest Venture Partners principal Tim Chang of startups’ path to legitimacy in the age of free music. “They infringe so that users get what they want and advertisers pay attention, scale so that you have some leverage against labels, get sued and then settle.”

The digital-music business is entering a phase common to many emerging high-tech sectors. The land rush of startups that follows any significant technological shift, such as file sharing, is already starting to thin out as winners stake their claims and losers get consolidated, if they’re lucky, or simply disappear.

For example, Last.fm rival Pandora Media Inc. faces a fight for survival despite having attracted prominent venture investors and a slew of good publicity. The Oakland, Calif., startup employs music experts to create a recommendation “engine” for Internet radio. But an upcoming regulatory change that will result in a doubling of streaming royalty rates for Web radio companies could spell the company’s doom unless it elects to charge users a subscription fee or finds a way to add advertising that its audience will accept.

Like Pandora and Last.fm, music discovery site iLike Inc. of Seattle has become popular, if not consistently profitable. One key to its success in attracting users has been its availability over Facebook Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., through which more than half of its 30 million users connect to the service. Through a partnership with Rhapsody, iLike allows users to stream as many as 25 songs per month and download selected others for free while examining their friends’ tastes and recommendations. The startup has raised $15.8 million in two rounds of funding from former Time Warner Inc. executive and MTV co-founder Bob Pittman, star venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, and the Ticketmaster unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp of New York.

“There’s a natural propensity for social networking and music to go together,” says MySpace founder Brad Greenspan, who left the social network in 2003. “When you’re surfing people’s profiles and everything starts to look the same, the only way to differentiate among them is their individualization. And if you add an image of an artist on a site, you will bring in people who want to be close to that musician’s energy, whether by blogging, chatting, befriending or following them.”

Drawing on such desires, music-blogging hub MOG Inc. of Berkeley, Calif., wants to tap into fans’ efforts to spread the word about their favorite artists. Universal and Sony BMG joined the Angels’ Forum of Palo Alto in putting $6 million into the startup, which compiles the musings of volunteer bloggers writing on given musicians and bands. MOG, which also offers on-demand music, represents a one-stop version of the musical blogosphere, where songs are commonly shared without compensation for content owners.

Also harnessing the power of the blogosphere are music-focused search engines such as the bootstrapped Hype Machine Inc. of New York and angel-backed Seeqpod Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., which index thousands of music blogs where MP3s often reside for a few weeks so users can sample them.

Another area where Internet startups are encroaching on the record labels’ turf is marketing. Launched this summer, Los Angeles-based Topspin Media Inc. enables artists and fans to communicate directly, offering a sort of customer management technology package for musicians that allows sales of songs, albums and merchandise. Under one subscription option offered through the company, a fan can pay a flat fee for a musician’s entire recorded output over the coming year — income a musician might otherwise have to share with a label. Venture investors are on board, with Topspin having raised funding from Redpoint Ventures of Menlo Park and Foundry Group of Boulder, Colo.

But rampant music piracy continues to dwarf legitimate sales, cutting label revenues by as much as half since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, work that had long been the province of music companies has been gradually appropriated by newer, fleeter Internet companies or, as with marketing, “disaggregated” out of existence. Other competitors also have emerged. LiveNation Inc. of New York, a publicly traded live music promotion company spun out of Clear Channel Communications Inc. in 2005, has signed top acts, including U2 and Madonna, and has sweetened its deals by letting artists maintain ownership of their material.”

If so, what will the business look like? A dying era of superstar acts may give way to a music scene carved into myriad niches, with proliferating media channels creating room for more voices — the “middle class” of artists, as Rogers puts it. Artists and fans will operate in closer proximity, with more tools in place to help them connect.

How, then, will music derive its commercial value, and where should investors place their bets? The future is likely to include more sponsorship and patronage. Imagine liquor companies, fast-food joints and other advertisers paying the band of the moment for rights to its music before it’s recorded rather than after it hits the charts. Alternatively, rich benefactors — or legions of fans — could support artists in exchange for early access to a new album or even a shout-out in the liner notes. Tie-ins with other media such as video games will also create opportunities: People may not buy the album for $15, but they’ll pay $39.99 for the “Guitar Hero” version.

The old ways, reinvigorated by technology, are made new again.

Read the complete article at The Deal.